Studies in the gospel of John
The miracles of Jesus are, unfortunately, unfamiliar to many of us. But if we stop and think about them in any detail, we realize again how thrilling it is that the God of the universe from time to time invades human history with specific actions. But what we often over look is the fact of the personal emotion and involvement that Jesus Himself had when He was on the earth doing miracles. And no passage better illustrates that than the one to which we are looking at now in our study of the gospel of John.
The chapter falls into four parts:
The Report of an illness – verses 1-3
The Reaction to the Illness – verses 4 through 16
The Rebuke of the illness – verses 17 through 44
The Reasoning Because of the illness – verses 46 through 52
As we finished our previous study we were looking at “the rebuke of an” illness in verses 17 through 44
We looked at “the finality of the situation” in verses 17 through 19, and “the faultfinding” of the sisters” in verses 20 through 32. So that brings us to the friendship of the savior in verses 33 through 40 – and it is demonstrated in two ways: first in His compassion in verses 33 through 38. Here is another aspect of the “humanness” of Jesus – He had friends, just like other humans. And He demonstrated His friendship for this family, first by seeking out the sisters individually in verses 20 and 30. But here is another example: Look at verses 33 through 35:
(33) Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled (34) And He said, “where have you laid him?” “They said to Him. “Lord, come and see.” (35) Jesus wept.
In verse 35 (the shortest verse in the Bible, by the way) Jesus weeps. And verse 33 says that it was because He saw His friend Martha weeping. But verse 37 shows that the bystanders had the same reaction that the sisters had had:
(37) And some of them said, “could not this Man who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”
(33) Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled
(38)Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave and a stone lay against it.
We humans have such a focus on this part of life and the importance to holding on to it. And Jesus reaction is in verse 33 and 38
The word “groaned” in verse 33 and “groaning” in verse 38 is a translation of a word that is translated “to snort with anger,” and “to murmur” in other places. So used in these verses it probably means that their sorrow made him angry at the presence of sin and death in His universe. But Jesus’ friendship is shown not only in His compassion but also His command in verses 39 and 40. First He gives the order in verse 39a
Jesus said, “take away the stone.”
Now as you might expect, from a human standpoint, Martha gives the objection that is found in verse 39
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
This is a perfectly human reaction – (“it’s impossible!) Even though she believed Jesus was the Messiah according to verse 27, But remember the conversation she had had with Jesus just a few minutes before this. And Jesus reminds her of the objective of this whole thing in verse 40.
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
Here is Jesus’ own statement of the purpose of all of his miracles: the glory of God. He could have accomplished that in many impressive ways, but He always did it in ways that benefitted people. The miracle that is about to take place is one of the most famous in all that Jesus did, but it is interesting that the Holy Spirit emphasizes the faith of the Son of God in describing it. Look at verses 41 through 43. Then comes the famous command to Lazarus:
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. (42) “And I know that You always hear me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that are standing by I said this that they may believe that You sent me.” Now when He had said these things He cried with a loud voice, (43) “Lazarus, come forth!” And he that had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “loose him and let him go” (45) Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in Him.
Someone commentator along the way has pointed out that Jesus had so much power that if He had not said “Lazarus, come forth” every body in the cemetery would have come forth. First Corinthians 15 speaks of death as an enemy (the last enemy to be destroyed). But here Jesus demonstrates that He has power over even that enemy. Incidentally, notice the contrast in verse 44 – Jesus raised the dead, but told the bystanders “loose him and let him go.” Someone has said, “man cannot do the work of God and God will not do the work of man. But for reasons hard to understood He allows us to cooperate in His work! And the result of that cooperation, then as now, is given in verse 45 – “’many believed in Jesus”
Finally, in verses 46 through 52 we see the reasoning because of the illness The first “reasoning” was concerning powerlessness in verses 46 through 52. Any work of God divides people into two camps: those who believe (as in verse) and those who are hardened by it (this section.) But verses 46 through 48 show the frustration and hopelessness of the Jewish leadership as they observe the actions of Jesus.
But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did (47) Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this man works many signs (48)” if we let Him alone like this, everyone will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
And the last line of verse 48 shows the real cause of their concern: loss of power. Jude 16 shows that this is always the motive of false teachers. So the first part of their reasoning was “concerning powerlessness. But in verses 49 through 52 we see that their reasoning was also containing prophecy.
And one of them, Caiaphas, being High Priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. (50) “nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” (51) Now this he did not say on his own authority, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation (52) And not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
Caiaphas was speaking of the immediate situation in verses 49 and 50. But verses 51 and 52 point out that it was actually a prophecy. And this is a great demonstration of Psalm 78:10 – God makes even the wrath of man to praise Him.
This whole incident is a demonstration of the difference between human viewpoint and divine viewpoint. The difference between viewpoints of God’s timing and of the finality of death, and even of the deity of Christ. And it should teach us to always look for god’s viewpoint in any situation in which you find yourself.